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Solway Lass

Stinger suits, sails, and sunsets

Another 'must-do' as you travel the East Coast of Australia is go sailing in the Whitsundays. Made up of 74 islands, it's simply gorgeous, and the Southern start of the Great Barrier Reef. Featuring one of the purest, whitest beaches in the world, it's the kind of trip you cross your fingers for full sun!

There are many boats and tours to choose from, day trips to overnight or even two or three night trips, from party boats to hopefully non-party boats. Ansley (another American that I met in New Zealand and have kept in contact with) had recommended Ragamuffin (a 3 day, 2 night trip), as that was the one she'd done and had loved it. It's a 53' Admirals Cup yacht, and it looked awesome. Although I did actually choose this one and reserve it, it ended up being a slow week and there wasn't enough people booked for that boat to sail, and I got switched / upgraded to Solway Lass. Built in Holland in 1902, she's a classic tall ship with lots of history and the tour was for 3 days and 3 nights!

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We boarded after dinner the first night and motored out of the harbour and into the Whitsundays for a couple hours, before anchoring for the night. Obviously rooms and beds are small, since we're on a boat, but luckily we were only 13 people, on a boat with a capacity to sleep 32. This meant it was mostly 2 people to a room of 4, and gave us a little more room than if it'd been packed. The boat itself is 127' including the bow sprit, and 20' beam, two masts and 12 sails (though the most we had set were 3).

Hmm, I can't believe I didn't take any pictures below or of the berths!

Since it was dark when we left the harbour, we were anxious to wake up and see where we were. We woke up to this...

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Our first stop of the day was Whitehaven Beach. The pristine, super white, famous beach I mentioned before. We anchored on the other side of the island and hiked over to the beach. We got to wear these awesome, sexy, stinger suits for the water since it was still stinger season. There are some intense jellyfish (such as the box jellyfish and the irukandji) that you don't want to mess with.

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The clouds and sun alternated, providing us with everything from storm clouds (complete with rain!) to sunshine and blue sky. It was great to see the difference the sun made, all in just a half an hour!

After we'd spent some time at the beach, we headed up to a lookout point. Unfortunately, there were tons of people about and everyone was so focused on 'getting that perfect picture' that no one seemed aware that everyone else was trying to do the same thing. Which led to lots of frustrated people. We were also on a time schedule because of the tides, we had to get back to the beach or we wouldn't be able to get back to the boat!

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That afternoon we set the sails and the sun came out for a lovely afternoon sail. Off the bowsprit was a net you could hang out on, though it wasn't the most comfortable, it was certainly the most awesome place to hang out, and that's where I spent most of my time!

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Our second day was the snorkeling (and diving if you added that extra) day. I'd been very torn with the diving option, it was additional money, but I'd heard really good things about the area (again, from Ansley). I did decide not to dive, and save that for when I'm farther north, and from what everyone who went diving said, I totally made the right call. Apparently there was barely any visibility and they didn't even see many fish.

We did do a bunch of snorkeling and saw tons of fish. The fish were definitely used to people, some boats (including ours) were even feeding them (at least it was “Great Barrier Reef Approved Fish Food”). I was a little disappointed in the state of the coral, it didn't look so good. My guess was it was too popular of a place with all the boats going there and people not used to having fins continually got too close. Our boat didn't even give out fins to swim with, saying most people damage the coral with them.

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That afternoon we went to another snorkeling spot, but this one had less visibility and we didn't really see much. By that point we were also getting cold and a lot of us didn't stay in the water very long.

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Our third, and final day, involved a bush walk up to a lookout and then an afternoon sail back to the harbour. The weather didn't really cooperate that day and was pretty overcast and rainy. But still such an awesome trip! And of course I felt like I was on a boat still that night and even felt like I was swaying the next day :)

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Posted by smr1188 05:43 Archived in Australia Tagged sunsets_and_sunrises beaches boats ocean beach australia tours sand sailing whitsundays east_coast Comments (1)

Noosa Everglades Canoe & Kayak Camping Safari

Invisible bull sharks and mirror reflections

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Unfortunately, as a backpacker, when you hear something about camping or even kayaking associated the Noosa Everglades, you tend to think of the Gagaju bushcamp. Now I didn't do the bushcamp, so I can't say for sure...but I did hear enough bad reviews and horror stories to steer me far away from it.

Luckily, there is an awesome alternative that's still paddling in the everglades for 3 days! Kanu Kapers! Yes, the Florida Everglades aren't the only everglades, there's one other one here in Australia! It's located on the east coast, just a couple hours north of Brisbane and just outside the relaxed town of Noosa Heads.

Right from the start, Kanu Kapers had awesome customer service, responding to my emails and answering all my questions as I tried to plan a kayak camping trip while travelling. I eventually decided on the 3 Day Kayak trip and convinced a friend of mine that I met in Brisbane to join me. The 3-day package was definitely affordable and included all the camping / paddling gear necessary, from stove and fuel to tent and tarp, from maps to the boat and paddling accessories.

When I reserved the boat, they booked a campsite for me and arranged a free pickup from my Noosa hostel to their headquarters, about a half an hour drive. There we arranged our gear, packed the car, and headed off to the launching point.

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It was amazingly calm and peaceful when we got to Lake Cootharaba, loaded up our kayaks and headed out on the water.

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I couldn't believe how calm the waters were, for what seemed like a big lake. And the reflections were spectacular.

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We made our way across the lake and onto the Noosa River. The navigation was easy with a couple well positioned signs.

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Once we got into the heart of the everglades, the reflections just got better and better.

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We stopped for lunch at Harry's Hut and got destroyed with mosquitoes before we gave up and got back to paddling.

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Once we got to our campsite we set up our tent and explored the area a little. We had a dock, and there were tons of minnows and tadpoles in the water!

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We made ourselves some tea, covered ourselves in bug spray, and watched the sunset and marveled at the reflections. And when the stars came out, they were reflected in the water as well and it was just spectacular. Some things you can't capture on a simple digital camera. It was neat watching the colors change as evening progressed and then into the next morning as well. Where, if possible, the reflections were more intense.

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I couldn't help myself, I just kept taking pictures... There were tons of birds in the area as well, though mostly out of sight. My bird identification by sound is somewhat lacking so I can't really say which birds we heard, but the trees were full of life! Here's a quick video of the sounds (though I'm sure half the birds stopped when I hit 'record'!).

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Finally we got on the water and headed up the river for a mid-day hike up to the Cooloola Sandpatch.

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It was huge! And had gorgeous views of the area...

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We were just as impressed with the reflections when we got back to the water.

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No matter how hard you looked, or at what angle, there was no way to see beneath the surface. Who knows what was swimming below, or how deep the water was. Judging by sticking my paddle in occasionally, it was very deep in parts. There were signs saying to be careful and not to jump in the water, because you can't know how deep it is or if there's submerged logs and whatnot. There was also mention of bull sharks. Bull sharks?! We didn't see any though, and after researching them when I got back afterwards, I'm glad. But we were certainly hoping to see one and on the lookout for them...exclaiming after every splash or fish jump, 'bull shark!'

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Anyway, we headed back to the campsite and enjoyed another sunset.
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The next morning we woke to the sound of this...

...and then went back to sleep.

By the time we packed up camp it'd slowed down to just a little drizzle.
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Undeterred by weather, we continued with our plan and paddled up Kin Kin Creek some, before heading back to the lake and the end of our trip.

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It was SO great to be out on the water and camping. A break from the east coast travel, crazyness, tours, parties, hostels, and general overpopulation of German backpackers. Noosa is a small town that is easily missed by many, but the Noosa Everglades and a paddle with Kanu Kapers shouldn't be missed by anyone! Do this for something different. And for great pictures.

Posted by smr1188 16:31 Tagged lakes boats rivers walking australia kayaking sand east_coast Comments (4)

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